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8/14/2007 12:26:00 PM
Review: Madden 08 (All systems)
By Lang Whitaker
If you are reading this review with red, dried-out eyes, you are likely among the initiated: I'm guessing you stayed up until midnight in order to be among the first in the world to own the latest edition from the greatest sports video game series of all time, Madden 08. It's become such an event that last night's "SportsCenter" had live coverage of the game going on sale in Times Square. (I suppose all that air time could have had something to do with ESPN's contract with EA Sports, although I doubt ESPN would allow any sort of blurring of the lines between their editorial and advertising departments. Le Anne Schreiber would be all over them.)
Fans wait for Madden to go on sales in Times Square :: Diana Eliazov/SI
But to be honest, Madden dropping is a big deal. Gamers, particularly sports gamers, wait breathlessly for this game to be released, causing a stir akin to an iPhone release. Only this event happens every year.
I did not spend the evening sleeping on a sidewalk outside a Toys"R"Us, but I did allot most of last night to playing Madden 08, until my contacts turned into sponges. And I plan on doing it again tonight. Yes, Madden remains a very worthwhile, addictive game. And it's right around the corner from being a great game.
Each version of Madden usually fixates on a particular portion of football -- previously including defense, the passing game, and last year, blocking. This season the emphasis is more general: player match-ups. EA has devised a complex system of badges that appear under players to denote their various skill strengths. It's a little confusing, like the players are floating on colored poker chips, and it's the first time there's been something so unnatural on the football field. For years, the Madden series was focused on being as close as possible to an actual video game simulation, but the addition of the "weapons" system takes in more of an arcade direction. Gamers are supposed to look for advantages in the matchups before the snaps, although any good football player would have done that. I guess this is EA trying to help us gamers along.
Madden 08 :: EA Sports
Defensively, the hit stick now allows you to dive high or low, though you can whiff if a offensive player decides to try out a hurdle at the correct time. They've also returned defensive playmaker controls, so you can designate certain defenders to cover a particular back or receiver. This is no substitute for good play-calling, though.
I played Madden on an Xbox 360 (it's also out on the PS3, PS2, Xbox, Wii, PC, PSP and mobile!) and it's a stunningly beautiful game. The jerseys are particularly well-rendered-you can see the tiny holes in the fabric in close-up replays. It's also safe to say that EA Sports accurately captured the, er, character in Norv Turner's complexion. One strange thing: I didn't notice tattoos on any players. And maybe it's just that I haven't spent enough time with the game, but I found the score bar across the bottom of the screen confusing and unintuitive. Shouldn't you be able to easily check the time, score and timeouts remaining?
Madden 08 on the Wii
It should come as no surprise that the main innovation of the Wii version of Madden 08 is its use of the motion-sensitive controller. Passing, stiff-arming, swatting down passes, even pumping up the crowd – nearly every action in the game is controlled via some combination of moving the Wii remote and the nunchuk. Want to knock down a pass? Wave your arms in the air. Want to plow through a lineman? Push your controller forward.
There are so many motion controls that it takes some getting used to, but there are onscreen indicators to tell you when to make the motions and whether you’ve done them wrong.
If figuring out the motion controls takes all your concentration, there’s also a mode where you use only the remote to make the special moves and let the computer control the players. Because a Wii game wouldn’t be complete without a slew of minigames, Madden delivers a wide variety of quick, simple challenges that are fun to play with friends. Surprisingly, there’s also online play, but no voice chat.
If you like to trash talk, and what Maddenite doesn’t, there’s a telestrator mode that lets you draw on the screen during a replay to show your friend his missed assignments and diagram how you smoked him.
Truthfully, the experience isn’t so much better as it is different. The motion control usually works well, but on more than one occasion I passed the ball when accidentally from slightly changing the position of my hand. If you are an experienced Madden player, though, the Wii version is a novel take on the franchise.
- Lee Clontz
We've reached a point where the animations don't seem to change much from year to year, mostly because they're already so realistic to begin with. EA has talked a lot about a new "branching animation" system that doesn't leave the players locked into animations, but the gameplay didn't really feel all that different from any recent version of Madden. There do seem to be harder tackles and bigger hits, though, including a lot of gang tackles, like Barry Switzer was coaching.
There are still a fair amount of weird visuals and animations. Game Room contributing writer Aaron Samus reported Peyton Manning throwing a pass that hit a LB in the back, and then the ball spinning all the way around defender's body, glued to his hip, before bouncing several yards away. The spin moves also remain way too easy and effective for any player to be able to perform a spin so effortlessly. If Falcons receiver Roddy White was really so astonishing at spinning past cornerbacks, he'd be in the Pro Bowl by now instead of fighting for playing time.
To me, the most disappointing part of this year's Madden is the further diminishing of John Madden from the game. I touched on this in last year's review, and Madden seems to have seen his role further reduced, now only chiming in when you "Ask Madden" for advice, and even then only in single-player mode. During games, Al Michaels and Madden have been replaced by a nameless radio announcer, and an awkward Marshall Faulk reads the pregame notes. As often as people complain about the bombast of big-time announcers and beg for a game of silence, Michaels and Madden are definitely missed.
Game Play: 8.5 out of 10Madden 08 is a fun game, but it's by no means perfect. Besides the issues mentioned above, there's also an odd propensity by ball-carriers to fumble, and linebackers with even the worst hands can pluck short, high-speed passes from the air as they zip over their heads. Does this happen in the NFL? No. But it does in Madden. A lot. Overall, though, it's a very good game.
Graphics: 9.5 out of 10
Here's where EA really nailed it. The stadiums look unbelievably good, and the players themselves are just as polished. If the gameplay matched the graphics we'd have a classic on our hands.
Replayability: 8.9 out of 10
Playing online adds a lot of replayability to the game, and online there's a little bit of lag, but nothing disastrous. Though there's still no online league play, EA did throw next-gen gamers a few bones, for the first time adding a full-on Owner's Mode to a next-gen version of Madden.